Inside Architect Steven Learner’s Art-Filled Home

Galerie visits the man behind Collective— New York’s coolest design fair—to see what he treasures most

Andres Serrano’s potent ‘Morgue’ photographs hang above Learner's bed.
Photo: Antoine Bootz
Architect Steven Learner Photo: Taylor Jewell

Architect Steven Learner launched the Collective Design fair in 2013 to give New York City a dedicated annual showcase for the rarest and most covetable 20th- and 21st-century furnishings and design objects. “We wanted people to understand more deeply the contribution design makes and can make to contemporary culture,” says Learner, who began his career working for architect Richard Gluckman before founding his own studio designing residences and galleries for such art-world clients as Sean Kelly, Dominique Lévy, and Emmanuel Di Donna.

Five years after Collective’s debut, Learner is all in, with his professional focus now almost exclusively on the fair—this years edition runs May 3–7. And, as a tour of his art-and-design-packed Manhattan apartment reveals, he lives the designed life. Here, Learner shares some of his favorite objects and inspirations.

“Everyone knows Rick Owens as a fashion designer, but his furniture is incredibly compelling. This stool made with stag antlers is from LMD Studio in Chicago, an Owens dealer and an early exhibitor at Collective. In my hallway it sits under an etching from Richard Serra’s ‘Weight and Measure II’ series.” Photo: Antoine Bootz, 2017 Richard Serra/ARS, New York
“When I bought my Candida Höfer photographs, I finally stopped denying that I have a thing for architectural images. One of them [shown] is in a room in the MAK museum in Vienna. When I visited there last summer, it was like seeing an old friend.” Photo: Candida Höfer/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/2017 ARS, New York
“Donald Judd’s furniture pieces are functional objects, finished with a durable industrial paint. This Judd corner bench in steel, painted traffic-blue, is from Collective exhibitor Nicholas Kilner,” says Learner, adding “I rarely polish the silver exterior of these small enamel bowls by Alexander Calder—I like the patina.” For the walls, he says he’s “particularly drawn to large-scale photographs. The images by Elger Esser appear to be snowy landscapes, but they’re actually images of the sea.” Photo: Antoine Bootz, 2017 Elger Esser/ARS, New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and Donald Judd Furniture 2017 Judd Foundation/ARS, New York
“My focus on art, design, and comfort carries into my teenage son’s room, but with playful pieces like the iconic Gufram cactus and Nerf-like foam sofa printed with a park-bench graphic.” Photo: Antoine Bootz
“I love the two artworks by Emilio Perez in my living room. He’s known primarily for his large-scale acrylic paintings, but these are ink on paper. I like the way they look hung salon-style with these other smaller pieces.” Photo: Antoine Bootz
“Over the holidays I went to the Park Avenue Armory to see Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto, a series of films featuring Cate Blanchett playing a dozen different characters. It’s fantastic how the once-sleepy Armory on the Upper East Side is being transformed into a vital venue for contemporary art.” Photo: Courtesy of VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/2016
“Andres Serrano’s ‘Morgue’ photographs are incredibly powerful. They’re a bit gruesome—and might seem especially so above my bed—but you’re drawn to what you’re drawn to.” Photo: Antoine Bootz